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Love from the Heart

“Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart….” (1 Peter 1:22-25 NASB)

God’s Word to us instructs us to love each other from the heart, but what does that mean?

“Heart” in scripture most often refers to the core of our being: from all that makes us who we are as individuals. This core being is made up of our mind or thoughts, our will, and our emotions.

Loving from the heart of our mind means to possess right, true, and loving thoughts toward others.

In the love chapter, we are instructed that kindness is a love virtue. All actions begin in our thinking, toward God, ourselves, and others. Doing kindness begins with our thoughts toward each: God, self, and others. Patience, jealousy, bragging, arrogance, actions unbecoming to a Christ follower: all these and more in the outline of love actions are effected positively or negatively by our thoughts. So love begins with our minds, and requires our fervent practice of taking every thought captive in the obedience of Christ, following His example in the practice of love.

Love begins in our minds because true, Agape love, which is the “love” word used here, is a function of our wills. Will flows out of what we think and believe true, right, and good, which is dictated by who we are, our defining characteristics. As Christ followers, we are people of The Word, and we will seek wisdom from that Word in directing our wills.

God loves by choice, because He is Love, and He cannot deny Himself. His love is not led astray by wayward thought processes, nor does He willfully go against who He is. Everything He thinks, says, and does flows true to His character, being dictated by who He is, the main part of His nature being love. When He slew whole groups of people, it was not dictated by hate of those destroyed, but by love that desired to protect those adversely affected by some form of hate or rebellion in the ones slain.

Love is not self-centered, selfish, but God and others centered. It is considerate of those we love in all we choose. It does what most represents God in accomplishing His will out of love for Him. And it considers what is most beneficial and caring toward those within our sphere of responsibility. By choice of our will, we do all out of love, becoming love as God is love, and staying true to who we are in Christ: the image of God.

Though love is a choice of our wills as dictated by right and true thoughts within us, it is not devoid of emotion. Emotions are. Though we should not allow emotion to dictate, devoid of thought coupled with wisdom of will, emotions help our expression of thought or opinion when aided by right thoughts and wisdom bred will.

When my husband looks at me with love’s passion shining in his eyes, I see the depth and sincerity of his love for me. When a controlled outburst of anger rises up to get my attention, I recognize the need to take heed to the importance of the issue expressed by the one angered. Emotion aids expression when controlled by love and wisdom. But be forewarned about being dictated by unchecked emotion.

When emotions rise, it’s important to acknowledge the flare, weighing it on the scales of loving wisdom, and taking it captive to righteousness. Passion unchecked and without love’s focus can lead to adultery. Fear unchecked and without love’s focus is destructive to faith, able to drag us off in opposition to God and His ways. Fear breeds hate, as it is ill equipped to think righteously or choose what is best out of love for God, self, and others.

Note the order given as seen in throughout scripture: mind, will, emotions. Without right thinking, our wills will lead us astray. Devoid of will’s directive, emotions make us fickle.

Love seeks out right and true thoughts. Love takes action deliberately, with clarity of will, as righteousness and wisdom become clear. Love uses right thought and clarity of will to temper emotion as a vital communication and motivation tool. Thus, we knowingly, deliberately, and fervently love from the heart in likeness to our God, who IS love.

Scriptures referenced: 1 Corinthians 13; 2 Corinthians 10:1-6.

Finding Who We Are: Part 14

Back to the Temple, to the Holy Place, Where We are The Church

When I finished up the section covering who we are as the Temple of God, I felt that I did not adequately emphasize a vital aspect of our being that is found in Holy Place life. In the Holy Place, where only the priests can enter, all who are true followers of Christ being Priests unto God in His Royal Priesthood, life in the Holy Place is Church.

We are The Church. We wash each other’s feet through encouragement and love as we enter together. We fellowship around the Showbread Table, Light each other’s lamps at the lampstand, and worship through prayer and song at the table of incense.

I was kicking myself for missing or failing to emphasize that, praying about doing an addendum, when God advised my heart to not worry about it. Now I know that He knew the last chapter.

So here we are, the final post of our trip through Hebrews, looking at who we are as the people of God in Christ. Until now, we have focused most on each of us individually. We are each tasked as priests, standing ready at the altar of sacrifice, poised to give an account of the hope we have and share with those who want it. We are responsible to watch with care for the image of God in us and encourage it in others as we wash holy feet. We enter the Holy Place on behalf of others, yes, but also in living our lives as honors God, fellowshipping with His people at the showbread table; checking our light and lamp oil at the Lamp Stand; praying and worshiping as incense at the table of incense. There we find our entry into the Holy of Holies for very personal time with the Father.

In the Holy of Holies, we visit with our Father about His Word, growing our personal understanding and surrender to His ways. We know and are reminded of His healing from the bite of sin’s serpent of death. We remember His loving care that meets our need as manna from His storehouses, all while being acutely aware of His mercy seat where Jesus ever lives to intercede on our behalf. Here, in our individual, very personal time with the Father through Christ, we are rested, revived, and replenished to return to The Church in renewed strength for ministry.

Now we see in chapter 13 who we are corporately. We are The Church. As I read Hebrews 13, the words speak to me, giving an excellent picture of what “Church” looks like. As I read these words, here is what stands out to me for us to realize about being part of The Church.

In Verse 1, we find our first, most vital responsibility as members of The Church: unfailing, unconditional love. We are to excel in living out the Agape love that flows from Father, through Son, to and through us individually, to each other. And guess who gets the first dose after love of God in all His forms? “ME!”

As we love God, His love flows to us to empower us to fully and truly love Him more. In this exchange, we come to know His Agape for us individually, as His beloved Child. His love for “me” empowers our love for self to be a love that rightly evaluates self, frees from self hate and self worship, and empowers a humility that equips our ability to truly love others. It is a love that does not fail as God’s righteous thoughts toward “me” and those in “my” sphere of influence equips our right relationships.

This love extends to empower our fulfillment of verse 2, “Do not forget or neglect or refuse to extend hospitality to strangers [in the brotherhood–being friendly, cordial, and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously], for through it some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Thus, we open our homes for fellowship, bible studies, overnight guests, etc., giving hospitality out of Love’s flow.

Love is gracious, merciful, humble, and giving. True Love, as God defines it, motivates and empowers everything we think, feel, say, and do. Thus, Love’s “…hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]. ….” (1 Corinthians 13:1-8 AMPC)

Out of love, we recognize our fellow countrymen and women, feeling the plight of those in persecution of every form. As The Church, we pray for and do all we can to help those imprisoned because of their faith (Verse 3)

As The Church, we recognize that our relationships are a picture of God’s Kingdom, beginning with the marriage bed. We hold human marriage in highest honor, knowing that as the Bride of Christ, our marriage in this life is to emulate that BLESSed union.

We know that adultery and any infidelity breaks the heart of God, as it mimics the separation of sinful man from their Holy, Creator God and His loving desire for our best good (Verse 4). Infidelity is the same sin toward our mate as idolatry is toward our God. It robs from our mate that which belongs only to them, and gives it to another. And this infidelity, though usually given to another person, can be given to things, just as an idol can be a thing or a pursuit that robs what belongs first to God or our mate.

As the people of God we hold God and His nearness as greatest value, knowing He who will never leave us, meets our every need. We do not give His glory to the monetary temptations of this world or hold any other treasure above Him, who cares for us affectionately and watchfully (Verse 5-6). This, too, fits the marriage bed, as we are called to cherish and nurture our mates.

As The Church, we work together to grow in our relationship to Triune-God, learning to truly love, honor, cherish, and nurture that Holy Union with God. ”So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me?”

As The Church, we pray for and support the leadership of our assemblies. We call them to accountability for righteousness in their leading, and we follow their holy example, imitating their faith as we grow by their example, a faith that leans the entire personality on God to become the real individual He wants of us (Verse 7-8).

Verse 17 adds instruction to “Obey your spiritual leaders and submit to them continually recognizing their authority over you, for they are constantly keeping watch over your souls and guarding your spiritual welfare, as men who will have to render an account of their trust.”

Their “trust” is from God, the responsibility given as shepherds of their flock. We are charged to do our part “to let them do this with gladness and not with sighing and groaning, for that would not be profitable to you either.”

At the same time that we are to follow our leaders, helping them lead victoriously, learning and growing faith because of their example, making sure we do not become a source of hardship and sorrow by bucking their authority, we are to be watchful for false teaching. Verse 9-15 warns that there should not be alien traditions added to God’s Word of instruction. Nor are we to trust any other altar of sacrifice for sin than that of God’s Son. “It is good for the heart to be established and ennobled and strengthened by means of grace (God’s favor and spiritual blessing) and not to be devoted to” unnecessary rituals and sacrifices.

As The Church, we care about others, meeting the needs of others (Verse 16). We pray for the work of The Church, its ministries, evangelists, preachers, teachers, etc., ministering to their needs (Verse 18-19). Following these guidelines, we accomplish the fellowship of Holy Place ministry.

“Now may the God of peace, Who is the Author and the Giver of peace, Who brought again from among the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood that sealed and ratified the everlasting agreement (covenant, testament), strengthen, complete, perfect and make you what you ought to be and equip you with everything good that you may carry out His will; while He Himself works in you and accomplishes that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ (the Messiah); to Whom be the glory forever and ever (to the ages of the ages). Amen (so be it). …” (Verse 20-25).

(Hebrews 13:1-25 AMPC)

Finding Who We Are: Part 13

We Are the Children of God: Recipients of The Father’s Discipline

“… The Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes. You must submit to and endure [correction] for discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons. …” (Hebrews 12:5-15 AMPC)

Beloved, as people who are rebirthed into Christ, we are the blood born children of Holy God. He loves us completely and unconditionally. One proof of God being our Father who loves us is His discipline working righteousness in us.

Discipline gets a bad rap in our day. The ways of discipline are toned down, often calling actions common to discipline abusive. Spanking is taboo, yet God’s Word says that if we spare the rod (some define as a small switch for stinging the legs), we HATE our son (child). (Proverbs 13:24 NKJV)

The main reason that I believe “discipline” gets a bad rap is that many define discipline as harsh, linking it only with spankings, grounding, or other punishments given for wrong doings. But God’s discipline, though it does respond to wrong doing and may respond harshly, is always done out of love, and is much more than reactive.

The defining parameters of discipline is training in righteousness, that we may be holy as He is holy. The number one verse I run to when describing discipline, which speaks of the purpose and work of scripture, is 2 Timothy 3:16-17. This oft quoted verse uses words like teaching, reproof, correction, training, instruction, conviction. The goals of such discipline are to increase righteousness, to make adequate and fully equipped for good work; to train in discerning good and evil. So we don’t just get onto a child for doing wrong. We train them to understand why it is wrong and teach better ways and reasoning so they find value in righteousness. That is God’s purpose in all He allows to touch our lives.

God does not tempt us to evil, but as He trains us to know the difference between good and evil, He does grant opportunity to recognize and choose between them. The older I get, the more I realize that any choice between good or evil is actually a choice between God and not-God.

Scripture teaches to avoid bad company because desire to fit in with those we call friend, when they constantly lean toward evil, erodes at and corrupts our good morals. The Father practices what He preaches, another vital aspect of discipline, desiring us to follow suit. Our walking with corruption separates us from the Father. If we truly want a close relationship with our Father, we must run with Him and with those close to Him.

Training involves time. We cannot teach a child how to love on a puppy without hurting it and expect them to fully understand in that instant how to love and treat others. It takes time and practice with ever growing subject matter to bring us up in how to love and treat others. And those that learn fastest and easiest are those who have parents who are good role models. Consistency is a must.

Now, I know parents can be abusive, but instead of training parents how to discipline righteously, we are training them to coddle children, making for kids who are selfish, unable to truly care for others, making them targets for evil.

Beloved, as blood born children of God, because He loves us and desires us to be all He knows we can be, having a right estimation of ourselves, God disciplines us. This discipline aimed at helping us become all He knows we can be is the meaning of training a child according to his (or her) “individual bent” (Proverbs 22:6,AMPC). It means recognizing one, the type of discipline that works best in training the child without breaking their spirit. Secondly, it requires the parent to recognize their child’s strengths, weaknesses, gifts, talents, and abilities, helping them grow and develop in line with who they are and can be.

When training a child to overcome their weaknesses, discipline helps them recognize resources that make them strong in weak areas. A child learns to hold on to things that stabilize them while growing strong walking legs. As we teach a child to walk by giving them our fingers to hold while we stabilize them, so we must help them learn to grab God’s hand and rely on His resources. The thing God wants us to learn and to pass on to our kids is this: where we help a child learn to walk, the goal being to eventually let go of us, God wants us to grow to know to never let go of Him. Our true weakness comes when we run in our own strength, forgetting that we still will do best by holding His hand. We are at our best when willingly surrendered to His care.

Beloved, we are the most BLESSed kids around, because our God loves us enough to care what we do and who we become. Because God loves us, He is always ready to forgive failure and, taking us by the hand, He shows us the still more excellent way of love, righteousness, peace, and joy, breeding heavens glory into all we are, say, feel, believe, and do, so we are the best “me” He created us to possess.

“My son, keep your father’s God-given commandment and forsake not the law of God that your mother taught you. Bind them continually upon your heart and tie them about your neck. When you go, the words of your parents’ God shall lead you; when you sleep, they shall keep you; and when you waken, they shall talk with you. For the commandment is a lamp, and the whole teaching of the law is light, and reproofs of discipline are the way of life.” (Proverbs 6:20-23 AMPC)

(2 Timothy 3:16-17 AMPC; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 5:14, 12:11; 2 Peter 2:14, NASB; Proverbs 22:6 AMPC)

Finding Who We Are: Part 12

The Testimony of Kingdom Coming: The Testament of God

“… Because of faith Enoch was caught up and transferred to heaven, so that he did not have a glimpse of death; and he was not found, because God had translated him. For even before he was taken to heaven, he received testimony [still on record] that he had pleased and been satisfactory to God. … Urged on by faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went forth to a place which he was destined to receive as an inheritance; and he went, although he did not know or trouble his mind about where he was to go. [Prompted] by faith he dwelt as a temporary resident in the land which was designated in the promise [of God, though he was like a stranger] in a strange country, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs with him of the same promise. … These people all died controlled and sustained by their faith, but not having received the tangible fulfillment of [God’s] promises, only having seen it and greeted it from a great distance by faith, and all the while acknowledging and confessing that they were strangers and temporary residents and exiles upon the earth. Now those people who talk as they did show plainly that they are in search of a fatherland (their own country). …” (Hebrews 11:5, 8-9, 13-14 AMPC)

Chapter 11 of Hebrews brings hope to many people of faith as testimony of people of faith through the ages rolls across its verse. Reading through these precious words today, I see mere humans, lauded for a great faith that led to actions bearing testimony of their faithful God. Several things I note as I read:

First these are people of faith who trusted the same perfect God of promise, but these are not perfect people. Abraham fell more than once to fear: faith’s biggest enemy. Moses, a Christlike leader of God’s people, struggled with anger issues that led to doing things his way instead of God’s way. David, the mighty warrior with a heart for God, committed adultery, then tried to cover it up by committing murder. Yet, though they did not behave perfectly and had to repent more than once, these made the faith hall of fame as recipients of God’s faithfulness.

Second, every promise given is fulfilled, but none saw all fulfilled in their lifetime, and some we still wait for we know as finished in the eternal though we still do not see it. This fact is a picture of faith. And this walk of faith we live bears a testimony of God.

Beloved, we who believe God and trust by faith are His living, breathing, testament, adding daily to God’s faith hall of fame.

“And all of these, though they won divine approval by [means of] their faith, did not receive the fulfillment of what was promised, Because God had us in mind and had something better and greater in view for us, so that they [these heroes and heroines of faith] should not come to perfection apart from us [before we could join them].” (Hebrews 11:39-40 AMPC)

Finding Who We Are: Part 10-C

Into the Holy of Holies

Read: Hebrews 9:1-28 NASB

“…Behind the second veil there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant;” (Hebrews 9:2-4 NASB)

Lifting up the incense censor of personal relationship with Jesus, who has gone before us as a cloud to fill the mercy seat, we do something no ordinary, secondary priest has been allowed before. The old curtain torn away, we enter, having access through Christ to the Holy Presence of the Father, entering safely into the Holy of Holies, our sin covered: set free indeed.

I can sense the awe, the wonder, the reverential, holy fear and abandon that causes me to fall on my face in worship and surrender, acknowledging of His worthiness and sovereignty. Daring to lift eyes to look around, I see the Ark of covenant laid open before us, for our consideration. We are in the Presence of the Holy One. In this instant, nothing else matters as the glory of His Glory rises in us.

As I am there, I realize a familiar place I have been to and been touched by many times in my LifeWalk in Christ: an absolute, undeniable unity with this Holy.

Even now, Beloved, prostrate together with you, I realize that God has already answered the prayer of Jesus for us to be one with them as He and the Father are one. We just have to recognize, trust, and walk out this union. In these days of my life experience, I grow stronger daily in this realization. The rested assurance of being one in Christ: of being part of His very body. His very thought flowing to and through me as every neuron in me connects in surrender to my place in Christ.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not perfect at it yet, and I, too, frequently fight on the battlefield of the mind with the weapons of war that God provides. Taking every thought captive in likeness to the obedience of Christ, daily I grow stronger roots into my eternal reality. And I believe that every breath of this reality that I realize, makes up an undeniable experience of this Holy that will, on the day I fully stand before Him, make this familiar a true homecoming.

As I look at the Ark, open to view, I see the things of God that make this Holy our living reality today: the Ark of the covenant with its mercy seat and covering angels; the golden jar of manna; the budding rod; and the tables of the covenant.

The Ark of the covenant with its mercy seat and covering angels is full of symbolism, a reminder of truths we can still cling to, today. Because of Jesus, us being His body, and Him our covering, we see the faithfulness of God in the Ark before us. We know we can trust His mercy toward us because of Christ in us, the place where Jesus stands between our sin nature and God’s wrath, freeing us from the bonds of death.

The Ark is a visual for the faithful Presence of God, Who is with us and for us so that none can be successfully against us. As He went before the people of Israel, making a way for them, so He does for us who believe and trust His direction and protection.

The Golden jar of manna is assurance of God’s faithful provision. Reminder that we can trust Him with our physical need. No need we face in life is beyond God to meet according to His riches in glory.

The budding rod was proof and reminder to Aaron and God’s people that Aaron was the chosen high priest of there day. It ended all dispute for the people, and it squelched any insecurity in Aaron. He WAS chosen.

For us, Jesus is The Chosen and Eternal High Priest. We, too, are the chosen tribe of Jesus, representing His Priesthood before The Father and in the world. We are set apart in Christ, by God, as His Temple on Earth and in service to it for His glory.

We never have to question God’s calling and choosing us. As people of God in Christ, we simply must possess our position as Priest unto God, trust the sign of the budding rod before us, know our role in His Temple, and do our role. Because of Christ, our time with the Father in the secret place of His holiness provides that budding rod of assurance for us.

As for Israel, the tables of the covenant bear constant reminder to the people that God alone is God. There is no other. His ways are simple and straightforward, and we are to follow in His ways. The laws given provide the measuring rod that leads to repentance. Jesus is the embodiment of God’s Holy Word, making Him the measuring rod by which we are to live, breathe, and find our being, all of which we accomplish by the strength producing grace of God through Christ.

Beloved, as I think on these things, rejoicing in Christ, bowed here before my God and King, I realize that, in the new covenant of Christ, our procession through the temple worship starts and ends here. While Israel started at the door to the outer court and the sanctifying sacrifice at the Altar of Sacrifice, making atonement for themselves before continuing on through the temple service, being stopped at the door of the Holy of Holies, we begin and end our day in the Holy of Holies: in the very Presence of God in all His glory. Only as we start our day here can we press forward in full provision for service.

We start by remembering God’s law and the sacrifice of Jesus that sanctifies and sets us free. We praise God for His calling and choosing us in Christ, possessing and committing ourselves to that service. We entrust all our need to His provision and rest ourselves in His constant and sure Presence with us: in His faithfulness to lead us.

Stepping out in and through Christ, into the Holy Place, we light the incense altar from the fires of our Christ, filling the Holy of Holies with praise and gratitude for God’s loving care, lifting the known needs of others to Him. We stop at His Lampstand, check our Oil, and make sure we bear His Light. We feast ourselves at His table, filling ourselves with the milk, honey, bread, and meat of His Word.

Departing with Christ all over and in us, we enter outer court service. Stopping to check our face in the Laver of cleansing, we wash our feet and the feet of those with us. Prepared for service, we stand at the altar to await our first arrival. Busying ourselves with the good work and daily cares that God entrusts to us. We move freely throughout the rooms of the Temple as need and as opportunity presents itself to us, going in and out of the Holy of Holies as needed to replenish ourselves throughout the day.

At end of day, we reverse course, stopping at the cross to thank God for His sacrificial gift to us. Checking our face in the mirrors of God’s image, we take time needed to wash feet. Entering through the veil of the Holy Place, we feast from God’s table, trim the lamps and check our oil. We light the incense with gratitude for God’s work in our day, offering prayers for the needs before us. Then crossing that blessed threshold into the awe inspiring Presence of our God, King, and Father, we find our place of rest in Him and settle in where personal replenishing takes place, making us ready for the morrow.

Beloved, we are the Temple of our God, and we recognize that the new and vital Holy of Holies is our personal place of meeting with God: the secret place of communion where we fill up with Him. Enter into His service and glory in our God.

“In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.” (John 16:26-27 NASB)

Finding Who We Are: Part 10-B3

Holy Place, Part 3 – The Table of Incense

Read: Hebrews 9:1-28 NASB

“For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place. Behind the second veil there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant;” (Hebrews 9:2-4 NASB)

This passage in Hebrews makes it sound like the altar of incense was inside the Holy of Holies, but it wasn’t. However, as we will see, it is so vital to service in the Holy of Holies that it makes sense they would see it as part of that glorious room. According to God’s instruction to Moses in Exodus 30:1-10, the altar of incense was placed in the Holy Place, in front of the entrance to the Holy of Holies. God’s instructions for Arron, the High Priest, are as follows:

“Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it; he shall burn it every morning when he trims the lamps. When Aaron trims the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense. There shall be perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations” (vs. 7-8).

Perpetual is never ending or changing. It is to occur repeatedly; so frequent as to be endless and uninterrupted.

Two things to note: One, that no one was to enter the Holy of Holies except once a year on the Day of Atonement. That tells us that the altar had to be outside the curtain, because the High Priest tended the incense daily, in order for it to be perpetual before the Lord.

Second: no other sacrifice was made on this altar, with the exception of the ritual of blood on the Day of Atonement. There was prescribed incense that was for use on this altar. Exodus 30:34-38 gives specific instruction for the incense, a special blend that is holy to the Lord only and not to be used in the same proportions for personal pleasure. It is the Lord’s. God also warns in verse 9 of Exodus 30, “You shall not offer any strange incense on this altar, or burnt offering or meal offering; and you shall not pour out a drink offering on it.”

Other facts gleaned about the incense altar include the fact that the fire for the incense is taken from the hot coals of the sacrifice, beginning with the sacrifice for the priests given each morning, and being part of the ritual with many offerings, such as the peace offering.

Commentaries, along with scriptures describing the Day of Atonement rites, tell us that the smoke and scent from the incense altar wafted up and moved through crevices around the heavy curtain covering the Holy of Holies. On the Day of Atonement, after the sacrifice, the priest was to burn the incense before entering the Holy of Holies. The scripture specified that the cloud of smoke from the incense altar would “fill the mercy seat”, making it safe for the priest to enter. (Leviticus 16:13)

Another telling passage to note is the story of Korah’s rebellion. Korah committed the sin of Lucifer (Satan), that of the pride of thinking more highly of himself than he ought. (Numbers 16:1-50 NASB)

Jealous of Aaron’s position, Korah came to Moses claiming to be righteous and worthy to hold the High Priest’s office. He led 249 others to follow with the same claim. God instructed them to come before Him, bringing censors with burning incense before the Lord. You can read the account of God’s choice of Aaron and Moses and the demise of Korah in Numbers 16. But it is the rebellion of God’s people on the following day that gives a vital picture of the purpose and significance of the altar of incense:

“But on the next day all the congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You are the ones who have caused the death of the LORD’S people.” It came about, however, when the congregation had assembled against Moses and Aaron, that they turned toward the tent of meeting, and behold, the cloud covered it and the glory of the LORD appeared. Then Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting, and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them instantly.” Then they fell on their faces. Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put in it fire from the altar, and lay incense on it; then bring it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone forth from the LORD, the plague has begun!” Then Aaron took it as Moses had spoken, and ran into the midst of the assembly, for behold, the plague had begun among the people. So he put on the incense and made atonement for the people. HE TOOK HIS STAND BETWEEN THE DEAD AND THE LIVING, so that the plague was checked. But those who died by the plague were 14,700, besides those who died on account of Korah. Then Aaron returned to Moses at the doorway of the tent of meeting, for the plague had been checked.” (Numbers 16:41-50 NASB)

Note the tendency to blame anyone other than those who did the deed. Sound familiar.

Beloved, the cross of Calvary is our coals of sacrifice. Jesus, the Rose of Sharon, is our incense; and He is the one who floods the mercy seat, ever living to intercede on our behalf. By Him, we enter the Holy of Holies into the very Presence of God. Through Him we intercede for others, as He takes our prayers and praises to the Father, a fragrant aroma, pleasing to God.

One important thing to note from the rebellion of Korah against the chosen: the difference between them was their heart attitude and surrender to God’s will. We, as priests unto God, chosen by Him in Christ, must bear this heart of humble surrender to Him in our service on behalf of mankind. We must take credit due us for our sin, own it, and, with wholehearted fervor, be quick to repent. We can stand, assured of our priestly rights, when we hold the censor and trust our Altar of Incense in our serving.

As Jesus takes His stand between the dead and the living, we serve as His representatives by standing in intercession for those of this world in need of a Savior. We stand for the needs of those in the body of Christ. We stand in service at the pleasure of the Father because Jesus takes His stand for us. Because of Christ, that heavy curtain is torn asunder, and Christ, the Savior, ushers us into the presence of the Lord God, our Father. Trust in the Sacrificial Lamb is the incense we burn before the Lord. He is our Seed of sacrifice. Bow down and worship the Lord for His glorious gift to us!

“For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 1:11 NASB)

AMEN!

Finding Who We Are: Part 10-B2

Holy Place, Part 2 – The Lampstand

Read: Hebrews 9:1-28 NASB

“You shall set the table outside the veil (covering the Holy of Holies), and the lampstand opposite the table on the side of the tabernacle toward the south; and you shall put the table on the north side.” (Exodus 26:35)

The lampstand of God’s Temple is located in the Holy Place, deeper in the Presence of God. Remember, the outer court is holy ground. It belongs to God and He is there. The outer court is where ministry to others happens. But only the priests are allowed into the Holy Place. As we will cover, the Holy Place is where intimate relationship with God happens.

We are His Light to the world, so in one sense, we are His lamp. But we are also His Temple. Within us as His Temple, we find a place in us that is the Holy Place. As we look at this reality, I discern with increasing clarity that the Holy Place in us is where we commune with God. And in that place is His lampstand that illumines our lives before Him.

God’s Lamp sheds light that illumines our personal darkness first, helping us to come more and more into His Light, where we receive ever increasing fullness of His Spirit, Who lights us up as His Light to this world. It happens in the Holy Place of God’s Presence. Let’s take a look at that earthly tabernacle to discern what the Holy Place looks like in us.

The tent of meeting and God’s Holy Temple built by Solomon was positioned to face East, facing the direction of the coming King. They didn’t know who their coming King was, and, in many cases, they still don’t. But we in Christ do know who He is, and we watch with expectant anticipation.

Stepping into the Doorway of the Holy Place, the table and showbread are on the right (north side), the lamp on the left (south side). Pictures show them about midway of the wall.

The lampstand was shaped to represent a tree: from root to branches. Jesus is our tree of life. I see the Lampstand as representative of our connection to the Eternal we have through Christ. We live through Him.

The lampstand set in the Holy Place was made of pure gold. The purification of gold by fire is likened to the work of God in purifying us as His servant representatives.

Scripture also likens our connection with Christ to trees and vines, Him being the root and us the branches through which His fruit is borne with it’s seed in it. For me, the lampstand being of pure gold speaks to the reality of our cleansing, already complete in Christ. Our eternal life is secure in Him, who is able to make us stand. He is our Light, leading us to God. We are His Light, illuminating Savior and King that all may see and know Him.

The tree shape is a picture of the tree of life that feeds us and produces the fruit of life in us. Jesus is the tree of life in us who are sealed with His Spirit. It is vital to our lives that we realize our connection to Him as the tree of life in us. Only as He feeds us like the root of a tree to branches producing leaf and fruit, can we produce any fruit or be His Light on the earth.

“”You are the light of the world. … Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 NASB)

One purpose Father designated the shape and position of the lampstand to accomplish is that the lamps “light up the space in front of them” (Exodus 25:37 NASB)

Reading the complete Matthew passage above, Jesus reminds us that we don’t hide a light, but we strategically place it where it’s light can be seen. As His light to the world, God has us strategically positioned. As part of His Temple Lamp, it is vital we understand that there is a purpose for our position.

One thing we covered in the outer court passages is that, when someone walks into our sphere of influence, it brings opportunity for ministry. We may find ourselves introducing them to Jesus, or aiding their understanding of His Lordship. Wherever we are in any given day, our lives should spotlight our Savior and King.

I find the wording of Exodus 25:37 interesting: to light the space in front of the lamp. If we are not careful, our focus drifts. We get stuck in the past, on things and regrets behind us; or we get distracted by sideline issues and minutiae. God intends our focus to be on the opportunity right in front of our eyes.

Most often throughout scripture, the lamp or light, with or without the stand, represents the light of God’s Presence. Thus He calls us to be His Light: Jesus as the Light of the world, commissioned us as His light to the world, the work of His Spirit in us being the fuel for our lamps. We can accomplish God’s purpose best when we trust His supply of oil as His Light, and when we face forward to tend to things in front of us.

In Revelation, the lampstand, complete with lamps, represents the Church as a whole and its angel or leading minister (see chapters 1-3). If our church is full of dry bones and dark corners, having no power to draw those into it from outside, that church has a problem. And that problem begins with members that are dulled of senses and content to be as they are.

God seats us on The Lampstand of Christ, the root of David, His life force flowing to and through us as we are vitally united with and through Him. A lifeless, darkened, and fruitless assembly has lost touch with its root and died or is near death.

Applying this to our being the temple of God and it’s effect on our daily walk in life lived as being within the gates of the Holy Place, our lamp is our relationship with God in Christ, our obedience to Him bearing the fruit of relationship with Him, making us to be as He is. Our union with Him grows stronger in the purification process, connecting us more securely to the trunk and root of the tree of Christ, through which is our spiritual nourishment. Our ministry and life-song as bondservant and ambassador, and, more importantly, image bearers who look like their Daddy, shines His Light, bearing the fruit of a life in His Light. Only from here can we worship and obey God, and minister to and empower others. Only through personal time in our Holy Place, communing with God in front of His Lamp, can we hope to be a vital and thriving asset as His light to the world.

Finding Who We Are: Part 10-B1

Holy Place, Part 1 – Showbread Table

Read: Hebrews 9:1-28 NASB

“Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place. ….” (Hebrews 9:1-5 NASB)

I pray your thanksgiving was greatly BLESSed. Ours was. As it has been several days since our last post, please bear with me for a bit of review.

As the new temple of God, the residence of His Holy Presence on earth, all together we are the earthly sanctuary. Thus far we saw the One Doorway into the outer court, Jesus. We, ourselves having our personal experience of His saving grace, entered that door and decided to stay. That decision made us priests unto God in Christ, bondservants, charged with temple service: we, ourselves, being part of His Temple on earth, in the New Covenant of Christ.

Thus far we discovered that, as we found the altar of Christ, we now help others to the altar for saving grace, and for ever increasing surrender to His Lordship as disciples of Christ. The instant someone enters our presence, they step on Holy Ground. As the new Temple of God, we are always on Holy Ground, charged to behave accordingly. People should begin to experience God in us. Thus, our being as He is makes it vital that we watchfully possess the very image of the nature of our God. That leads us to God’s provision of the Laver

We discovered the Laver of cleansing set in front of the Doorway to the Holy Place, very possibly having mirrors in which we look for the image of God in us. Any scarring or marring seen must be cleansed and restored by the washing of our feet at the Laver of cleansing. We wash our own feet through repentance. We wash the feet of others believers through forgiveness, and through encouragement in righteousness. We bear that image in the outer court as we minister to the needs of those allowed into that area by God in Christ. And we check that image, making it clear and sure, before entering deeper into God’s Presence, found in the Holy Place.

The Holy Place is that area in which only the priests could go. In this large room, they had daily duties to tend before God and on behalf of the people.

The Holy Place, like the outer court, has only one entrance. What I see here is Jesus, beckoning us to deeper intimacy with God in Christ.

Crossing that threshold in our seeking after God and ministering to Him, the first thing to catch our attention is a golden table covered with bread. Twelve loaves, to be exact: evenly spaced with six loaves lining the length of each side of the table. In the Old Testament, these represent the twelve tribes of Israel, laid out in the forever and always Presence of God.

In the New Testament Temple, ours is The Living Bread of Life, Jesus. He entered the eternal dwelling ahead of us, representing our interests before the Father as He ever lives to intercede on our behalf. Because of our Living, Life giving Bread, Jesus, we are enabled to enjoy intimate relationship with The Father.

Eating around the table has long been a place where relationships happen and are strengthened. There’s love, encouragement, strengthening, training, bonding, and more in that time around the table. It pictures face to face time, in intimate relationship with God.

In the physical world, families who keep the dinner hour, seated together around a table, without TV or technology to interfere, are stronger, closer, and more united. In this spiritual sense, we should never leave the Showbread Table where vital nourishment to see us through our day is found. It’s an attitude of relationship that should be a constant, allowing quick access to feast on that precious Bread, Bread which only the priests were sanctioned to eat.

As stated, the Sacred Bread is twelve loaves, lined in two rows on the table, representing each of the twelve tribes of Israel, set as in the presence of God. These are unleavened bread, representing sinless lives in total surrender to God.

In the New Covenant, Jesus is our Bread of Life, our life source Who is forever interceding for us in the Presence of God. Because of Him, we stand sinless before God. We, considered as the body of Christ, are in God’s Presence with Him by association as His body.

Jesus, our Bread of Life, sustains us, empowers us, ignites us, meeting our every need for Life abundant and full. He is our ALL. We can do nothing apart from Him. Because of our relationship with Him, we can come boldly to the throne of grace to find our every need met.

When we enter the Holy Place, our first duty is to do intimate relationship with God, feasting ourselves on Him. Then, receiving His fullness into ourselves, we carry that fullness with us to the outer court of our daily lives and ministries.

Finding Who We Are: Part 10-2b

We are The Temple: Outer Court Part 2 – The Laver 2

So, from what we have considered thus far, I would say that the Laver experience is very personal to each of us. It is us, deliberately reaching for the heights of godliness. And it is God, reaching for us, privately, in response to our reach, and corporately as we let Him live through us to minister to each other.

Today, we look at one thing about the Laver experience that absolutely thrills me. No one really knows exactly what the Lavers looked like, but the following gives a hint of one probability.

“Moreover, he made the laver of bronze with its base of bronze, from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting.” (Exodus 38:8 NASB)

All translations I read reveal the use of the bronze frames of mirrors as they gathered the material for this project. The fact that the command of God was for this basin and stand to be made of pure bronze supports the understanding of the extraction of the bronze from the mirrors. However, some translations and commentaries say the following:

“Bezalel made the bronze washbasin and its bronze stand FROM bronze mirrors donated by the women who served at the entrance of the Tabernacle.” (Exodus 38:8 NLT)

Some believe that the mirrors were kept intact and used to form the basin. This meant that when the priest leaned over it to wash their hands and get water to wash their feet, they saw their reflection in the basin.

Wow! That possibility speaks volumes to me. As priests unto God in Christ, we are called and equipped to represent Him and His interests in this world. Each hand and feet washing session gives opportunity for the priest to check their image as a Christ follower. Are we bearing forth the image of God? As we leave the altar to go into the Holy place, did we rightly and truly represent Christ in that altar encounter we just had?

As mentioned, an altar encounter may be with someone in need of meeting Christ as Savior, or it may be with a fellow Christian in need of recognizing His Lordship and righteous teachings in some area of struggle. In that encounter with a struggling Christian, our responsibility is to help them grow in their commitment and understanding of dying to self and self interest so He may live stronger in us. Whichever we are dealing with, we must check our stance and be sure we minister to the need as bearing forth fruit in keeping with righteousness.

We are not judge and jury. God’s Word is. As long as we stand in truth on the Word of God, we do well, but we are to take care to speak, act, and react in line with full truth.

The Laver, for us, is coming to the Wellspring of Living Water after any altar encounter, to cleanse ourselves in Christ. To pray for those ministered to with a view to our own lives, recommitting self to purity in that area of our lives, so we are not tempted away and caught in the same snare.

Also at this time, looking in the Laver mirror for the image of Christ in us, we take a moment to evaluate ourselves in the way we behaved, repenting any sin revealed in us through the ministry encounter. This preps us to enter into the Holy Place for the needs of others, which we will begin looking at in our next post.

Then, as we leave the Holy Place to return to outer court ministry, we wash again, asking whether we truly represented Christ in our service to God done in the Holy Place? And at this time, we seek to put on Christ anew in preparation for our next service opportunity. These are the checkpoints we have at the Laver of our life and ministry.

Today, as then, God is approached by way of the blood and the water. Jesus is our blood sacrifice and we stand in Him. Jesus is the living, life giving water, and we live, breathe and move out of the flow of His provision, as represents Him. Thus, the Laver represents our reliance upon and reception of His every provision in our lives and ministries.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NASB)

One final thought here: if I’m understanding correctly, in the Old Covenant, the priest washed his own feet and hands. In the New Covenant, Jesus teaches us to wash one another’s feet. As I think on this, I see where both are important for us to know and do.

We don’t always have a fellow believer nearby to help us evaluate our life and practices. We need to be able to practice self-evaluation and cleansing: bringing self into alignment with Christ’s likeness throughout our day. What was it that Paul asked in Romans? “In teaching others, do you not teach yourselves also?” (Romans 2:17-24 NASB)

While we need to be able to teach and evaluate ourselves, we also need to recognize that we are one body in Christ, and there are times when we need the aid of others.

This completes the outer court ministry area of our lives as the Temple of our Living God. Because of His Presence in and around us, it is holy ground and part of our Temple of God reality. Wherever we are is holy in Him and we are to behave as the holy people of God.

Next blog post we enter the Holy Place. Until then, I pray you have a very BLESSed Thanksgiving.

Finding Who We Are: Part 10-2

We are The Temple: Outer Court Part 2 – The Laver 1

“For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13-14 NASB)

Looking at ourselves as the Temple of our living God, thus far we walked through the one doorway from which we enter the outer court to find the altar of sacrifice, which for us is the cross of Calvary and Jesus, the Christ. It is our privilege as priests unto God to recognize opportunities to lead people to the altar and point them to the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Anyone who crosses the veil into our lives must be viewed as an opportunity for altar ministry. However, that is just the beginning of our role, as Jesus did not call us to make converts, but to make disciples. An altar opportunity may be to help people to the Savior; or it may be to help a fellow believer grow in surrender to His Lordship.

After the altar, we find the Laver.

“You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base of bronze, for washing; and you shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it.” (Exodus 30:18 NASB)

Positioned between the altar of sacrifice and the Holy Place of meeting with God, we find a wash basin called the Laver. Every morning, when the priests entered the outer court, they first sacrificed for their own sins. Before they could serve God and minister to His people, they had to repent for themselves through the blood of sacrifice. Then they were required to wash their hands and feet at the Laver.

The Laver was a basin and stand made of pure bronze. The priest not only washed after his morning sacrifice, but before every entry into the Holy Place, and after every exiting from the Holy Place.

Remember, the priests were dealing with the sins and fleshly needs of the people all day, which continually exposed them to the world’s soiling. Thus, frequent cleansing was required. That leads my thoughts to the last supper and Jesus, dawning a towel to wash the feet of the disciples.

Recall here, Peter, being Peter, baulked at his Lord doing something for him that is normally the job of the lowliest of slaves. Jesus warned him that if he would not allow Him to do this cleansing for him, that Peter had no part with Him. So Peter, being Peter, tells Jesus to not just do his feet, but his hands and head too. What was it that Jesus said?

“…He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is COMPLETELY CLEAN…” (Vs. 10 of John 13:1-17 NASB)

The sacrifice of Jesus completely cleanses us from all sin. We don’t have to make a new sacrifice every day; we just have to realize, gratefully trust, and walk in The One. But we, too, deal daily and all day with a sinful world that makes our feet dirty. So Jesus enacted the Laver washing for us, telling us as disciples to wash each other’s feet.

Now, for one, this speaks to our need to forgive each other so we can walk together in peace and unity as the body, bride, and church. But it also has another very important responsibility. For the disciples, this was preparatory for those who would step into their priestly roles after His departure. But what of today? Is it still needful today? Does the following command from Christ extend to us? I believe it does, and that it is a vital ministry opportunity we too readily fail to practice.

“…Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. ….” (Vs. 12-15 of John 13)

Have you ever experienced a foot washing session? It is beautiful to experience. My first experience was at a ladies retreat. Each person had a turn at having feet washed, and then at washing another’s feet. The last one whose feet were washed then washed the feet of the first, so it went full circle.

Note in Jesus’s command to wash each other’s feet, He called Himself the Lord and Teacher. To me that gives instruction for two main purposes in feet washing: we are to lead people to His Lordship in their daily walk; and we are to take the opportunity to teach His truth over our daily struggles.

This is pictured perfectly in the foot washing sessions I have experienced, as while washing the feet, the servant and the served visited together. It is a very intimate time of addressing common struggles and encouraging their righteous stance, especially for those who know each other, as they can be specific with their encouragement in addressing issues.

Note here that, in truth, Jesus is the Laver of Living Water. We don’t necessarily have to wash physical feet to perform this ritual, but oh how beautiful and intimate it is when we do. The action of physically washing feet transports us to this moment with Jesus. The more Christlike we are with each other, the more we realize His Presence in it.

This is a good pause point in this lengthy discourse, so hold these thoughts to be continued tomorrow.

Finding Who We Are: Part 10-A

“… we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. ….” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭6:14-18‬ ‭NASB‬‬)

We are The Temple: Outer Court Part 1

Before looking at the thoughts for today, I want to emphasize again that the purpose of this trip through Hebrews is not to delve into what this author is teaching. I thought that is what I was to do when the Spirit inspired this journey. Instead, I find Him highlighting topic matters that we can delve into with the goal of “Finding Who We Are” in Christ.

That said, chapter 9 is discourse regarding temple worship and the priestly sacrifice of Christ. That leads me again to our priestly role and our responsibility as the very Temple of God in our days.

I’ve spent days here trying to make one blog out of the topic of our being the New Covenant Temple and our priestly role therein. However, the topic is vast, my thoughts full. I decided yesterday that it would take several posts to cover properly. Then, this morning The Spirit woke me with discernment that I was starting at the wrong door – the door to the Holy Place; thus, I was missing some important insights on us as The New Temple of God and our priestly role here.

The Temple complex has the outer court where sinner and saint, priest and laymen, could all enter in. This yard is outside the actual Temple, which includes the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, each having only one, covered entrance.

Once a person took care of their business in the outer court, the priest assisting them had to continue the ritual for them, entering the Holy Place on their behalf. Then, as we know, once a year the High Priest, after proper cleansing for his own and all the people’s sins, entered the Holy of Holies on The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).

As I woke this morning, I realized there are important aspects in the outer court that are contributions to understanding who we are as The Temple and Priest unto God in Christ. The outer court is in us as part of the Temple of God through Christ, just as in the first Temple.

When people came to the Temple to worship and tend to business with God, they found only one entrance. Jesus is and always has been the way, the truth, and the life. No one enters God’s Presence without going through Him. The first doorway leads into the outer court, where the unclean is cleansed. Each doorway leading us deeper into God’s Presence requires passing through the Christ. Through Christ, often using one of us, The Father draws those in need of grace. That grace is found in the outer court.

A thought that hits here: as a temple of God, people cannot come near to us without passing through Jesus to get there. If God allows a person to come close enough for us to effect one another’s lives, it is God ordained for eternal purpose. Be alert to the opportunity.

Once a person responds to God’s call, they step through the curtain of Jesus to find a priest, one of us, standing at the altar of sacrifice. The instant they step through the curtain, they step onto holy ground as they are entering the very presence of God.

I realize as I write this that this aspect of Temple service is why the image of Christ in us is so vital. We are the face of this doorway. When people enter our presence, they enter the outer court. What they experience in us either rightly or wrongly represents God.

Our Temple posture is to be one of holiness, revealing a quality that leaves the world and reveals God’s Presence. Our priestly role is to be a conduit of God’s love, wooing people to the altar where the covering of Mercy’s grace is found.

Beloved, we are the Temple and the Temple includes the outer court encounters with people of the world. Wherever we are, we are on holy ground. Wherever we are, we are in our priestly robes, called and equipped by God to perform our priestly duties. The first duty is to lead people to the altar of sacrifice, which for us is the cross of Calvary.

When a person entered the temple of Moses’ day, they had sacrifice in hand. They would take it to the altar, which was near the entrance as first order of business with God. The priest was ready and waiting to make sacrifice for them.

In our bodies as His Temple, Beloved, Jesus has already provided their sacrifice and ours. We stand as priest in representing Him and His interests. Jesus in us makes His appeal to draw people who need Him to the altar as they see His Light – His work in and through us. He does so through us as we remember that we are His priests, having our holy feet set on His Holy Ground, living holy lives as the holy people of God.

“The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered WHICH CANNOT MAKE THE WORSHIPER PERFECT IN CONSCIENCE, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, HE ENTERED THE HOLY PLACE ONCE FOR ALL, HAVING OBTAINED ETERNAL REDEMPTION. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, CLEANSE YOUR CONSCIENCE FROM DEAD WORKS TO SERVE THE LIVING GOD?” (Vs. 8-14 Hebrews 9:8-14, 27-28 NASB)

The outer tabernacle was the Temple made with hands that a person had to attend often. It did not fully cleanse, but was a temporary solution until the time of the Christ. When Christ came, His sacrifice entered the eternal Temple, cleansing us for all time. This is the Temple in us, the Temple we are: the eternal temple in the heavens with God. We are cleansed forever in Christ, made holy as He is holy. That holiness sustains us, cleansing conscience from dead works to serve the living GOD.

“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” (Vs. 27-28)

Before we leave the altar of sacrifice leading to salvation in Christ, this seems a good time to breakaway and answer two commonly debated questions: Who are saved? And can one’s salvation be lost?

A New Thought on the Lord’s Model Prayer

Matthew 6:9-13 NASB

Bear with me for a pause from Hebrews. Sharing with friends about having a bad attitude and trying to head it off, one replied, “I am working on my own attitude. I just read, “Instead of counting to 10, try saying the first 10 words of the Lord’s prayer several times.” Sounds good!”

I thought so too and began immediately! But I was led to add the next 14 words, 24 total.

“Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.”

It dawned on me as I said those beloved words, that if we truly grasp what this first part of our Lord’s outline says, we are set for Life!

God’s Kingdom and His will is to Father us. That has always been true. His is not the role of any old dad, though. We can take the descriptions of all the greatest dad’s, add all we can imagine in the makeup of dad-greatness, and we will never come near to understanding and grasping that of our Daddy-God.

Not only is He truly the Father who knows (and does) best, but He is GOD. Our God is higher and greater than we can fathom, the one we can run to day or night. Even running into His throne room unannounced, with no greater desire than to sit on His proverbial lap and be near Him for a bit, we will always find His scepter ready to receive us in mercy and love, as the king did for Esther.

Beloved, I believe this is the greatest truth about our God that there is. His will and desire is and has always been that we recognize and honor Him as our true Father, our One True God, the Good Shepherd we look to and follow. That is Who He is. Think of all that those role-descriptive words imply and know God. When we grasp hold of this truth and choose Him, desiring all He has for us, the remainder of the prayer is unnecessary, for the rest of the outline is fulfilled in Him.

He is Daddy God, our Shepherd, ready, willing, and able to tend our every need to perfection, according to all He knows is best. He is also King, ordering our steps and giving us purpose. We can run with that, having no need to pray the middle, because His will is to take care of us, leading, guiding, and directing our path to His full supply. His desire for us far exceeds all we can fathom, deeper than our greatest thoughts.

When we can trust Him enough to be still and know God, we can skip to the end and worship His glory, honor, and praiseworthy Presence with us, fully satisfied in and by Him. Is this not the picture given us in Holy Writ of Heaven’s splendor?

Revelation 21-22

Finding Who We Are: Part 6b

Jesus “has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father-to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:6 NASB)

Walking through Hebrews, looking both at the example of Christ to us, and at the specific instructions to us found there, we are seeking to discover clues to who we are in Christ. In chapter 3 and now in chapter 5, we are looking at our role as priests unto God. Thus far we see the purpose of God for the suffering priest, and we see the changing of our sacrifice as priests because of Father making His Son the last blood sacrifice on our behalf. No more need for the spilling of blood, Jesus leaves us to make gifts and sacrifices of praises to God, coupled with thanksgiving.

Now, in verse 7 of chapter 5, we see in Jesus what I would call the surrendered, reverent heart of a prayer warrior. Bombarded by every enemy’s false wisdoms, “He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.”

All the world of mankind around Him was coming against Him as He faced betrayal, false accusations, desertion, and denial of His reality as King and Savior, ending His earthly existence on a cruel cross at the hands of those He came to save. Along with the world’s assault, the fleshly body of Christ was coming against Him. The screams of His body was so severe, scripture describes His emotional and mental state as being distressed, troubled, in agony, a despair of such magnitude that He sweat blood from bursting capillaries.

Knowing how the devil can trouble me with his lies and accusations, though there is no clear witness of it in scripture, I believe Satan and His minions were surely, busily working his best deceptions in their attempt to turn Jesus from His appointed course.

Scripture says He was tempted as we are, yet without sin. Demons ever live to tempt mankind away from God and His ways for us, away from belief and trust in God. I have to believe they were working hard to tempt our Savior away from trust in God, adding to His turmoil. The death that would come if Jesus turned from His appointed course would be the end for all mankind. Knowing this truth, with love for The Father and for us, He cried out for strength to persevere and drink His cup. God responded through ministering angels.

“Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Matthew 5:8-10, NASB)

Jesus continues His Priestly role as Prayer Warrior as He ever lives to intercede on our behalf. We, too, are called and equipped to pray without ceasing. The thing I feel led to point us to in our role as Prayer Warrior Priests unto God, comes from what I discern from The Lord’s Model Prayer in Matthew 6.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. …” Stop there!

This beginning of what Jesus outlined in teaching the people how to properly approach the throne of grace tells me the humility of heart and frame of mind needed before we even think of laying at the feet of God what we see as our needs. The first thing we must do as prayer warriors is recognize the way-above-my-head greatness of our God, which, in turn, causes us to realize our first need to be that of aligning our hearts with God’s will, with full realization that He knows our truest and greatest needs; and He understands the perfect solution and timing in meeting each one.

We are too small, insignificant, and selfish to truly know what our need is apart from Christ. We cannot realize what the truth of our need is, until we stand in agreement with God’s will on earth as in Heaven. Jesus knew the will of God for His life, and He sweat blood in seeking to align His desire and strength to achieving God’s will, God’s way.

Jesus exemplified this Truth in His prayer, “Yet not My will, but Thy will be done.” Jesus spent His hour crying out to God in order to refocus His heart to accomplish God’s will on earth as it was already seen as true in Heaven.

Beloved, we are priests unto God, according to the order of Jesus, The Christ, called and equipped to cry out to Him who saves us, seeking for His will on earth as it is in Heaven. We war against the enemy of God as we learn well the way of prayer. “To God be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Finding Who We Are: Part 5

“While the promise of entering His rest still holds and is offered [today], let us be afraid [to distrust it], lest any of you should think he has come too late and has come short of [reaching] it. For indeed we have had the glad tidings [Gospel of God] proclaimed to us just as truly as they [the Israelites of old did when the good news of deliverance from bondage came to them]; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because it was not mixed with faith (with the leaning of the entire personality on God in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness) by those who heard it; neither were they united in faith with the ones [Joshua and Caleb] who heard and did believe.” (Hebrews 4:1-2 AMPC)

We are a people of faith, believing God and trusting Him with every fiber of our being. That is what God expects from those who are His. That faith to trust and believe God leads us to a life of peace that reveals His rest at work in us.

We are a people who put our trust in the work, will, and way of The Triune God, finding our rest in Him as we lean our entire personality on God in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness. True, abiding faith to trust God unites us with Him in thought, word, and actions.

Thought: all true thought is wrapped up in the Father, the God-head. True thought and true wisdom is from Him, who knows all things, even the date and time of the last day, and He makes truth known, revealing Himself, His will, His ways, to those who wholeheartedly seek Him in earnest. Thus, He calls us to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” and to “think on these things, the higher things that are true, right, pure, lovely, excellent, worthy of praise” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6; Philippians 4:8-9).

Word (Jesus): Jesus knows and always, from beginning of time, speaks the true Word of God, coming from the very thoughts and intentions of Father, the God-Head. I believe that Jesus has always been the Angel of the Lord, God’s visible manifestation, bringing the Message of God to His people. He always speaks the truth of God, revealing the intent of God, and He came as our Incarnate Lord God to correct our understanding and show the true way of Life in unity with God’s perfection. He is our example, the Lord of our lives, and we are expected to be as He is, following in His footprints.

The Spirit of God is that part of Him that equips and empowers right and true discernment, leading to productive and eternally effective action. We are instructed to be filled and overflowing with Him, cooperating with Him so that His power and affect flow through us.

Surrendering to The Triune in the power and leading of His Spirit, we become one in thought, word, and actions, just as did Jesus. This is the path of ONE, the achievement of the desired unity between The Triune and the Body.

Father led me to look at Philippians 1:6 in The Passion Translation the other day. I love it! The way it reads seems to say that He will keep working in us until He can unveil us to reveal the very image of Christ in us! That is the desire of The Triune for us and it is the desired end of the work of God’s Spirit in us. Love that. Make it so, Father. Grant us faith to persevere and fully cooperate with the work of Your Presence set to overflow in us.

“I pray with great faith for you, because I’m fully convinced that the One who began this glorious work in you will faithfully continue the process of maturing you and will put his finishing touches to it until the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (Philippians 1:6 TPT)

Finding Who We Are: Part 2

Hebrews 1:3, 8-9 NASB

Last post, looking at Hebrews 1:3, we talked of our need to remember who and Whose we are. Looking at Jesus, The Perfect template of who we are, we see that we, too, are to be expressive of the glory of God, The Father, growing daily as an exact representation of His nature.

“And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.” (Philippians 1:6 AMPC)

Following Christ’s example, Him being the Author and Finisher of faith, we grow strong in our understanding, believing and living out God’s Word, knowing that through our believing, receptive, faith, we, too, stand, live, move, and breathe victoriously by the Word of His power.

Today, we glean the Seed from verses 8-9.

“But of the Son He (The Father) says, “YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. …”

First, we fulfill verse 3 as we remember that we follow and serve The Risen King just as He did the Father. We not only follow in His likeness, becoming in nature and action as He is, we also act as His representative on earth, His Kingdom Ambassador, charged with always living as best represents His will and way in fulfilling Kingdom purpose here on earth.

Everything we do and say represents Him, right or wrong. As Christians, we are expected to look and act like Him, rightly representing Him. When we don’t, we sully and slander His good name.

His Scepter is righteous. He has earned the right of sovereignty, and we owe Him no less than our best, which only happens as we surrender ourselves to allowing Him to live out His nature through us in the power of the Spirit (Galatians 2:20 AMPC).

As Ambassadors, we are empowered to live in the power and authority of His righteous scepter.

He is King. We are both: His temple, in which He still lives in the earth, by the power of the Spirit at work in us; and we are His Bride, made part of the Royal Court, the Royal Priesthood, empowered with His authority to act on His righteous desire, will and way.

“…YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS…”

As we grow in power as His representatives to the world, we, too, put on the love of righteousness and the hate of lawlessness. We are tasked to act righteously, stand for righteousness, and BE a righteous lot. When we seek to right a wrong, we always act righteously. We are called to Law keeping, God’s Law first, then man’s law, as long as it does not stand in opposition to God’s Law.

Speaking of being a righteous lot, let’s put a cap to that: righteous Lot. Scripture says of Lot, who was led out of Sodom and spared destruction, that God “rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds).” (2 Peter 2:7-8 NASB)

The righteous hate lawlessness, finding their righteous souls tormented by the lawlessness of of sinful flesh.

I don’t know about you, but my heart breaks with every lawless act that too readily bombards our senses. Jesus wept over Jerusalem for much the same reason. However, though Jesus loved and lived righteousness, and He hated and wept over lawlessness, He still loved and spent time reaching out to the unrighteous, lawbreaking sinners. Hate the sin and do not participate with it, but love the sinner and bid him/her to walk our way, straight into the loving arms of the Savior.

Because Jesus loved righteousness and hated lawlessness without hating the lawbreaker, thus continuing even in His heart break to carry out God’s will in the earth, Jesus was blessed with the oil of gladness.

“…THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.”

We can still be joyful, even in sorrow, because God is still God, and Jesus is on His throne; and because we possess the oil of gladness, the very Spirit of God in us. All the promises of God are wrapped up in us, ready to be revealed, as we house within us His Spirit and His Word. One promise of God we watch for is kin to this fulfilled promise to the Christ:

“…When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…”

The promise we anxiously await as we serve Jesus in righteousness that overcomes sin’s grasp?

“He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:21-22 NASB)

Finding Who We Are: Part 1

Do you ever have moments of forgetting who and Whose you are in Christ, and because of that, inadvertently resurrecting the old you? I’m sad to say that I do. The enemies of righteousness, the false wisdoms of flesh, world, and demons, know just how to enliven old nature issues like insecurity, fear, pride, and on and on we could go, ad infinitum.

Jesus walked in victory, partly by refusing to forget Who He was. That strength flowed securely from assurance of WHOSE He was; and by the purpose of His life, set in Order by The One He called Father. Jesus came to set things straight, not only revealing truth and becoming our Kinsman Redeemer, but also to set the example we are called and equipped to emulate.

As Jesus lived, so must we, by knowing who and Whose we are. To do that, we look at Jesus.

Hebrews 1:3, 8-9 NASB gives us an excellent starting place. In searching for truths we must apply, we find in verse 3:

“He is the radiance of His glory”

Jesus ever lived to radiate the glory of God. His goal was to always be an expression of God’s nature. He, the Son, looked like the Father, leaving no doubt that He was God’s Son.

When we see a child that is the spitting image of a parent, we say, “Boy! You can’t deny that one!” Jesus lived a life that proved Him as Son. As children of God in Christ, we are tasked to do the same. We must grow in the knowledge of Him, becoming so much like Him, we cannot be denied as being His.

I think of a friend who, in the midst of a life threatening heart attack, was found so calm that the doctor questioned it. The nurse, in response to the doctors stunned query, said, “I’ve seen this before! You’re a Christian, aren’t you?”

We are to live our faith out so brightly that the curios onlooker sees the resemblance we possess in Christ.

“…and (He is) the exact representation of His nature….”

Watching a young child following a parent around can be enjoyable as we observe the child working so hard at being just like daddy or mommy. The child does so by watching the parent’s actions, listening to the inflections of voice tones, embracing the parent’s likes and dislikes, adopting their desires and passions.

We do the same as we look closely at scripture passages like this; closely observing the pictorial passages that describe God in all His forms and fashions.

We also grow to understand Him as we learn to follow the dictates of His Spirit in us, Who stands as intermediary, tasked with bringing out the image of the Father through us, making us one with Him. Just as Jesus is One with the Father, thus is His desire for us.

“…and upholds all things by the word of His power.”

Jesus walked in unity with the Father, being One with Him, because of His assurance and faith to believe. Having strength of character and resolute purpose because He believed in and possessed the Word of the Father, He walked in strength and power. What God proclaimed true of Him, what He authorized His Son to accomplish, Jesus took to heart and walked in the power of that Word. When He spoke, He expressed what He heard from the Father, knowing it to be a powerful and unstoppable truth.

God our Father has given us His Word. In the power of His Spirit, He gives that Word life, empowering it to be living and active in our day and in our daily lives. It cuts through all barriers to inspire our lives, opening to us the life giving morrow, instructing us so that we, too, may possess the abundance and victory He has for us today.

His word is never out of date because His breath is in it. By the power of God’s Spirit in us, we inhale and exhale the truths and wisdom of God found in His Word. As we fully possess His opinions as our own, speaking as best represents Him and His interests, we walk in His power just as Jesus showed us to do.

As we seek God’s power living in us, giving Him full sway to grow and mature us, we, too, can be an expression of the radiance of His glory, rightly and truly representing His nature, being empowered to make full use of His Word to us, fulfilling His purpose in the strength of His supply, to the glory of our God, Father, and King. In Jesus, Lord, make it so!

A Lesson From Father’s Gymnasium

“Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.” (Psalms 27:14 NASB)

Good morning, Beloved of God. I don’t know about you, but I needed this Word this morning. As I read it today, Father tells my weary heart, “Yes, wait on Me, but do so in strength with courage. Practice active waiting that carries on with life while watching for Me.”

This Word is not new instruction to me. This has been His Word to me from the beginning of our current journey. But tiredness often brings us to rest stops; and weariness requires directional reminders.

You see, God is stretching my perseverance muscles as never before.

In days past, Father has used hard situations and waiting moments to increase faith, hope, trust, and perseverance in me. Usually, He will cause my waiting to take me beyond the limits of strength to carry on, then relieve the tension and give rest until the next perseverance challenge. Just like working our muscles, we increase the amount of weight we lift a little at a time. As the weight becomes easier to lift, we add more weight.

Opportunities to persevere puts us in God’s gym, where faith and hope and trust are increased, strengthened, and stretched, and our character is built up and made strong.

I know you have been to His gym many times as well. No child of God can get out of that membership. It is a required course, for “… we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5 NASB)

The problem with this season my husband and I are walking through in his health challenge is that there are two potential outcomes, and it is not clear yet which way it will go. Will God allow him to continue life here with me, or will He take him to life in His Presence in glory? Will his healing be here, or there? There is a fork in the proverbial road we are standing at, hand in hand. Will we carry on together, or let go and separate?

As I type that, I realize where my thinking is off.

I am seeing us standing at the fork, the bifurcation acting as a roadblock before me. I must realize we aren’t truly there yet. My husband is doing well, carrying on with life. He is not in his death bed yet. That place of separation is somewhere down the path, not yet in sight.

I’m jumping ahead on the path.

What is it Jesus said? “Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34 NASB)

God is telling me to own THIS DAY, this moment, this breath He gives me to use for His glory. Looking ahead to try to face something I can’t truly even see yet is only robbing me of strength for my now reality.

Yes! I needed this Word today, Beloved. How about you?

“Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. …“Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.” (Hebrews 10:24 NASB; Psalms 27:14 NASB)

The Narrow Focus

Listening to a Biblical meditation, the speaker directs to visualize looking as through the big end of a telescope, which makes the view through the small end very narrow in focus. Put that focus on God, refusing to move from gazing at Him. See a temptation come across your field of view, but keep focus on God; refusing to follow the object of temptation. Note that the temptation moves rapidly out of view.

That temptation God allows to float between us is a test meant by Him to prove and strengthen our resolve to keep the focus of our desire on Him. Temptation’s ability to grip and sway us is weakened by our straight and narrow focus on One true and righteous passion: God alone.

Practice keeping a restfully assured focus on Him today, Beloved. When you catch your focus drifting, turn quickly back to your narrow ended telescope, and let that distraction move out of site. Victory over temptation to sin is assured when we maintain that straight and narrow love for God.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. …” (Hebrews 12:1-4 NASB)

Temptation’s Lure: My Passion

A Comprehensive Look at James 1:14 (In context)

“Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.” NASB

Temptation: we all face it at one time or another. It is even said of Jesus that He, too was tempted, even as we are, yet without sin (1). Truly, temptation is opportunity to choose whether we will do evil or do good. Jesus’s first, most vital desire in all things, at all times, was God.

Jesus was God incarnate, yes. Jesus was filled and empowered and led by the Holy Spirit, yes. But He was still a man who contended with human flesh. The thing about the desires Jesus surrendered Himself to, is His fear of, trust in, and desire to please God that kept Him on the straight and narrow path of always choosing good over evil, so as to always please His Father and bring Him glory. He was dictated by lusts, desires, passions set on God, His will, and His way, ONLY. He did not give leeway to His flesh.

As I look at this verse in several translations, I find understanding that can help us follow in likeness to the example of Christ.

“Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.” NLT

Lusts are focused on the attainment of all our hearts desire. If we are not watchful to keep our desires in line with God, His will and His way, those desires can not only be used to entice us to sin; those desires can grab us and drag us away from the paths of God’s choosing.

Have you ever committed to stay away from a desire, like sweets, only to find yourself running straight to it. I have! In that instant, not only do I find myself eating a sweet, I often fall into gorging myself on them. My lust, desire, passion, literally drags me away from my commitment.

The passion of the Christ was God: first, foremost, and always. That passion protected Him from being dragged elsewhere. Clue?

“Every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions).” AMPC

Have you ever found yourself blaming the devil, the temptress, or anyone but self, because they sat the temptation in front of you? I have. It is hard to take the blame for our failures. But truth is, it is our own desires, passions, lusts, that cause our fall.

We alone are to blame when temptation comes and we fall away. We fail to keep our desires in line with godliness, and make ourselves a target. Not only do we make self a target, but we fail to have the right arsenal against the attack of our flesh by having evil passions under our belt. The only passion that can save us from ourselves is desire for God alone. Only then will we do the things that please Him, like studying His Word, so we have knowledge of truth under our belt.

“Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” NIV

It’s “MY”evil desire to blame. Each person is responsible for their own demise. The phenomenon of the individual falling into the group mentality of a chaotic mob is not the mobs fault. There is some desire in that individual that is responsible for their own fall from righteousness. They wanted something that joining the mob could feed them, so they chose the evil of the mob over the good of walking the other way alone.

“Instead it is each person’s own desires and thoughts that drag them into evil and lure them away into darkness.” TPT

When we give self over to the lusts of our flesh, failing to give self to godly pursuits, we leave the Light and walk off into the darkness. Our greatest aid against fleshly desires, lusts, passions, is the transforming of our minds that change the fleshly to the godly (God-centered) pursuits. The more we want Him, the more we want to please Him, the more we desire all He has for us and gives to us, the better off we will be and the closer to His Light we will stay.

“People are tempted when they are drawn away and trapped by their own evil desires.” GNB

We set our own trap, providing the cheese to lure us, when we fail to align our desires with God’s. The tempter knows what to put in his trap, because we give it to him.

One last fact I found comes from the Orthodox Jewish Bible, which introduces us to the “Yetzer Hara”:

“But each one is tempted by his own ta’avah (lust, yetzer hara), being dragged off by it and being allured.” OJB

“In Judaism, yetzer hara (Hebrew: יֵצֶר הַרַע‎) refers to the congenital inclination to do evil, by violating the will of God. … The yetzer hara is not a demonic force, but rather man’s misuse of things the physical body needs to survive.” (From Wikipedia – Also see Self Seduction by Jewish author Dr. Alan Morinis)

“Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.” James 1:13-15 MSG

“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who LOVE HIM. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. DO NOT BE DECEIVED, my beloved brethren.” James 1:12-16 NASB

1 – Hebrews 4:15

Glorious Unfolding

Glorious Unfolding by Steven Curtis Chapman

The Glorious Unfolding, such an uplifting lyric any day; but on this day!

As I listened to the beginning lyrics, God opened my spiritual ears to hear, with clarity, His “voice” speaking hope to my heart in the words so skillfully sung.

“Lay your head down tonight. Take a rest from the fight. Don’t try to figure it out. Just listen to what I’m whispering to your heart. ‘Cause I know this is not anything like you thought the story of YOUR life was gonna be. And it feels like the end has started closing in on you, but it’s just not true. There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold.

“And this is going to be a glorious unfolding. Just you wait and see and you will be amazed. You’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over. So hold on to every promise God has made to us and watch this glorious unfolding. …”

Such great encouragement, not just for eternity, but for every difficulty in life today. The heartache of watching a mate lose ground in a devastating health battle. The wayward son or daughter living lives we never dreamed or wanted for them; lives they never saw for themselves. One’s own health or life situation closing a dream path, an opportunity seemingly never to come again. Storms rising to destroy all we have, and life as we know it seems suddenly to end. So many heartbreaking situations; yet the words of this song, the encouragement found there, shatters the hopelessness and helplessness with one fell swoop of assurance in God.

He is up to something marvelous; something amazing; something beyond one’s ability to fathom, much less to dream it. The sudden devastation that seems to end everything may simply be a course change that requires a new beginning.

Nothing is too difficult for God. He is never taken by surprise or unprepared. He is not only writing our story on this road we travel. He is writing HIS story. And He is ready and thoroughly equipped to WIN.

Just like in scripture: it’s not just a bunch of stories of many peoples’ lives. It’s the story of God, at work in and through the lives of many. That story continues in and through us: our lives made complete and beautiful by Him working with and in us. Because of Him, there is a glorious unfolding coming to us who wait to see Him with earnest expectation and hope of glory, trusting and believing and KNOWING that He IS working in our everyday situations.

We are part of His life tapestry, and His tapestry is gloriously beautiful and perfect in every way. Wait for it!

Paint Your Picture by Julie Myer

Whose Prisoner We Are

“Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus…” (Philemon 1)

The thing that jumps out to me as I read Philemon is this understanding that Paul, captive in a Roman prison for the cause of Christ, considered himself a prisoner OF CHRIST, not of Rome. He knew why he was in prison, because God warned him and gave him clear understanding of the purpose for this season. He knew that he would not find release until the purpose of God was fulfilled. He also knew that he was there at his own choice in following God’s will, not at Roman or Jewish design.

He had a chance to choose to leave, twice – or at least three times, actually, as God seemed to give him warning with opportunity to choose to turn away from Jerusalem more than once, and as Roman authorized judges saw he was innocent and planned to release him. But he chose to walk the path God told him of, he called for the judgment of Caesar. THE POWER OF THE ENEMY TRYING TO DESTROY THE WORK OF GOD THROUGH PAUL WAS MADE IMPOTENT BY PAUL’S SURRENDER TO GOD’S WILL FOR HIS LIFE JOURNEY. He trusted that it was God, Himself, dictating His prison time.

Beloved, what situation are you in where you feel trapped, imprisoned, helpless? What situation are you walking into, knowing God’s call and refusing the naysayer? Could it be that surrendered trust in God, seeing self as the prisoner of Jesus alone, might well be the key to defeating the work of Satan?

If we truly believe that God is Sovereign in all, we have to know that whatever imprisons us is allowed by Him for a purpose of His own will and way. He is Whose prisoner we are: as we, who belong to Him, live this life with assurance that He cares for us affectionately and watchfully (1 Peter 5:7 AMPC).

God has purpose for all He does or allows. Ours is to trust and to seek Him in it, so as to cooperate and partner with Him in fulfilling that purpose. Just a slight change in view point, a clearer understanding of God’s power at work though our confined state, can well be the shift we need to come out victorious in Christ, bearing a testimony beyond comprehension.

“… I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you FOR CHRIST’S SAKE. …” (Philemon 1:1-25 NASB (vs. 6))

From One Cracked Pot to Another

I shared some time ago, early on in our three year journey, telling you of my husband’s battle with prostate cancer (see link below). Throughout this experience, though there have been days of exhaustion and emotional challenge, I stand continually amazed by the Father’s care and provision. When my strength and countenance were challenged, His supply and faithful care uplifted me. When rest was the need of the day, peace and ability to do so has been there. God’s provision and Presence is remarkable.

My husband is the director of the welding program at our local college. Diagnosed at stage four and now stage five, by the grace of God, he has worked throughout this entire ordeal. We can count on one to two hands the number of sick days he has taken. God faithfully sustains him.

Drawing near the end of the summer semester, he finally retired with commitment to stay just long enough to train his replacement. It was none too soon for me, as I could tell that my body was at a limit in its ability to function. Relief was in sight. I was ready, and excited.

Problem? All along he has trained someone to take his position, with plans to hire someone for a lower position, but that fell through, practically at the last minute; so the school hustled to find someone. Problem? The person found can’t start for two to four months. My husband’s commitment to the welfare of the program kicked in and he committed to try to hold the fort until his replacement comes.

Now, I trust the Lord and know He is at work in all of this, but I’ve realized lately that something in my thinking and emotional state snapped at the change of semesters. It has really put a kink in my role in this journey we are on. It is challenging my ability to function. It has also laid me out in the lap of my God. I am absolutely, deeply beyond my own strength and ability. Even my ability to think and “feel” right is challenged. Only by the grace of God am I moving in these days.

But here’s the thing! A brokenness seen is a problem solved when seen through the eyes of our loving God. He is my rest, my strength, my hiding place. Nothing has changed where hope and faith and strength in God is concerned. He is not surprised or caught off guard. He is still with me and He will see this cracked pot through.

The exciting thing about a cracked vessel is more openings for the light of God to shine through, new areas for Living Water to pour out through. God doesn’t throw cracked pots out. He simply refurbishes them, putting them to use in new, creative ways of service. With that understanding in heart, I pray, may it be so, to the glory of God who makes me whole.

Hang in there with me, Beloved. Let’s shine that Light and spill that Water everywhere we go. Even from our weary soul, the Lord be glorified!

Prostate Cancer: Warning to All Men

Gifted Bondservant FOR

“Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, FOR the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness…” (Titus 1:1-4 NASB)

Okay, Bondservant of God and ambassador of Christ, what follows your FOR? For the apostle, evangelist, prophet, preacher, teacher, Paul expresses it well. Those called to spread the Good News and apply God’s truth to life in their age, the “for” of their ministry is “the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which (we are) entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior.”

For the gift of helps, it might be FOR the purpose of meeting daily needs so as to free those charged with spreading the Good News so they can accomplish their FOR with less concern for daily need. We all have our “for” in the work of spreading truth. And we all are called to be ready with our testimony, so our “for” may cross over into the area of the evangelist. I.e.: “I use my gift of helps in serving at the food bank for the needs of others with hope of having opportunity to share the work of Jesus.”

We have a work FOR the service of our Lord, and we are responsible to fulfill it. Knowledge of our motivating purpose, our FOR, equips us to serve with greater commitment, effectiveness, and strength of resolve.

Know your FOR. We are all vitally needed in the roll God places in us as part of the body of Christ and the church of the living God. Knowing our FOR is a great help in serving with head high, unashamed.

You Follow Me!

“Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”” (John 21:22 NASB)

Following the Lord as He dictates through the work of His Spirit within: that is a goal long practiced, and I am so grateful when the Lord graciously confirms the work of my hands. Especially so when I wonder if I’m doing things correctly or efficiently. Efficiency was my concern on this day.

Feeling so led, I Jerichoed around my town after dropping hubby off to work, one of my frequent ministries in the Lord, but on this morning I couldn’t keep my focus in prayer. Frustrated at one point, telling the Lord my focus issue – like He couldn’t tell 😂 – I prayed, “Lord, I don’t even know why I’m doing this!” Very clearly to my heart came “Obedience.”

That’s all I needed, to know that I was following the dictates of the Spirit to accomplish God’s will. I realized in that instant that, though my focus might be off, the work of God’s Spirit was spot on. Thus assured that He was doing something mighty even in the midst of my struggle, I continued on, knowing that whatever He was doing, HE was doing it.

What freedom of Spirit! To trust the Lord and simply obey. I believe that was one point Jesus was making with Peter. We may not fully comprehend or understand what God is doing in His calling and equipping us, but He is never confused or unfocused. He always knows what He is doing. All He needs from us is willing obedience and faith that trusts Him to be bigger than life in and through us.

Trust in the Lord, Beloved, and have a Glory day.

The Reignited Gift

“For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:6-7 NASB)

I’ve been in God’s Word to some degree for over 50 years, since childhood; studying and teaching it with intimate fervor for at least 40 of those years, and it never ceases to amaze me how the Spirit can bring a “Well, dah!” out of me. This passage did it for me this morning.

I’ve always read this with thought of “gift” being that of teaching, or evangelism, or leadership, or whatever Timothy’s undergirding service-gift might be. Today I read it with that start of realization, recognizing that Paul is talking about the gift of the Spirit, Himself. He is saying, “Kindle afresh The Spirit of God within you.”

You see, something was raising up great fear in Timothy, such as to quench the Spirit’s freedom to work in His life. That fear was most likely his youth and the challenge of teaching with authority those he saw as older and wiser, leaders in the community. Paul reminds him that the Spirit in Him bridges that gap, equipping him to boldly and confidently speak and teach the truths of God with power.

Beloved, what quenches God’s Spirit in you? Kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you. How? Through trust that believes God; faith that realizes unseen truth; and surrender that submits to Him, even when it doesn’t make sense to our finite thinking.

Trust in the Lord today, Beloved, and do the good He sets before you, working out of the power of His sure Presence within you. Go forth in Him and prosper the day.

Proof of Innocence

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.” Philippians 2:14-16 NASB

I don’t know about you, but for me there are few things more testing and trying to my patience than a child who gripes, complains, and argues with every call to duty. I want them to obey willingly and with a right and good attitude that does right and good as unto the Lord. Our passage today tells me that God desires that in our relationship with Him as our Father as well.

There’s a parenting warning tag that goes something like this: Rules without relationship breeds rebellion. I believe that goes both ways. A bad relationship between child and parent makes both rebellious. The child’s rebellion comes out in the ways of disobedience, bad attitude, and more. The parent rebels through impatience – sometimes explosive, crankiness, indifference, and more. A loving relationship is vital for a life that behaves in blameless innocence toward God and man.

Throughout scripture we see relationship with God is mirrored in our relationships with each other. Scripture relates our relationship with God in likeness to a good marriage; the love and care of parent and child; sovereign with servant; and His being the best friend we can ever know. Relationship is important to our God and He wants us to do that well at every level, especially with Him.

For a healthy relationship with God, we are called of God to obey with a willing spirit. Submitting ourselves to God as a living and holy sacrifice that is acceptable to Him as our “spiritual service of worship”, as inspired by Romans 12:1. Our willing obedience, according to Christ, is equivalent to actions of an abiding love relationship with God in Christ (John 15:9-10). Willing service is done out of love for Him who loves us; a love that desires to remain with Him forever, a love that honors Him through blameless innocence toward Him, proving our loving relationship with Him.

So, Beloved, as a child of God that desires a good relationship with Him we must do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that we will prove ourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God.

Recognizing a False Circumcision

“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”” (John 8:12 NASB)

Look at this beautiful promise of God, Beloved. Do you believe with trusting faith in this truth? Do you seek faithfully to walk it out in life by the power of God’s Spirit? The promises of God are glorious to us who believe. And to us for whom they are sent and received by faith, believing, they are irrevocable. God’s eternal promises are vital to our living a life of abundance.

What about promises like that found in the best known scripture there is? “”For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT PERISH, BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE” (John 3:16 NASB). Do you believe this promise with saving faith? So do I. Does that make us brothers and sisters in Christ? Some would say, “Not that alone.”

Recently, someone I love and respect deeply, and have learned much from through the years, deemed me lost and apparently decided I’m a false teacher because we do not have the same defining parameters for THE CHURCH. Now that has really bothered me. As I said, I love and respect this person, so like the men of Berea, I’ve been seeking the Lord to confirm truth for me.

Lately, every time I read a promise like these stated, the Spirit of God catches my attention to focus me on the fact that those who have a false definition of The Church nullify the promises of God. Example:

⁃ “So, you believe the Word about Jesus? But you’re not in my fellowship of believers, so your faith is useless.”

⁃ “I see the work of God’s Spirit in and through you, the bearing of The Fruit that is found in every true believer, but you’re not of our association, so your work is pointless.”

Sad, isn’t it, that we deny many of the brotherhood (sisterhood) because of what I would call a false circumcision.

Here’s what I’m understanding. A belief like, “my fellowship is right and yours isn’t, so you are lost” denies every promise of God, making God’s promises secondary to our understanding of The Church/circumcision we profess. False circumcisions we deem necessary for eternal grace nullify all other promises of God found in Christ.

Here’s another problem I see with a false circumcision added to the promises of God. That false understanding becomes a trap, a snare, a stronghold against true faith, true worship, and true fellowship. Continuing the “my church or yours” theme, here’s an example.

I know a woman from a church fellowship with the belief described above. She fell in love with and married a man of another church background. He, as spiritual leader, insisted they attend his church. She dutifully did so. Problem? Every time she came, she felt condemned to hell. She was grieved and unhappy the entire time. And though she agreed with every teaching she heard, she could not get past her definition of The Church.

Now, I believe this type of situation falls in under the teaching of Paul in 1 Corinthians 10. Because of my belief of the parameters of The Church, which is true according to my understanding about scripture, I can enter into any fellowship despite our denominational differences, and I can worship freely, even giving my “Amen” to truths taught there. I can do so, recognizing, loving, and enjoying the fellow believers there with a clear conscience and sure faith.

If this woman’s husband has the same faith as I, in my opinion based on my understanding of the teaching of God through Paul, then for the sake of the wife’s conscience, he should have joined her in her church. But here’s the flip side of the problem. What if that husband has the same belief system concerning his church fellowship? Then he cannot join her church with good conscience. These then take the place of the unequally yoked, which is misery for a marriage.

Conclusion: a false belief system that creates a false circumcision, adds the necessity of a work’s action to the salvation equation. That false circumcision then makes the promises of God concerning salvation in Christ alone invalid in ones struggle to keep that circumcision, thus we have a boatload of people believing they are saved while they are leaning on the wrong side of their equation. The person snared by a false circumcision then finds it to be a stronghold that brings separation from much of what Jesus sees as The Church, and even separating them from true faith in Christ. Our false circumcision hinders worship outside of the fellowship that bears that circumcision. Those who demand the bearing of a circumcision take the place of the Pharisee, tying heavy loads on their fellow believer; loads God never intended them to carry. And it brings a false, self-condemnation to the heart of one who finds themselves on the wrong side of that legalism.

Beloved, know this. It is Jesus who knows those who are His, and by His Spirit, He seals and marks them so they have the assurance of their salvation through faith in Him, and so they are recognizable to His true followers. Let’s stop raising up stumbling blocks and walls of divisiveness between us, and let’s walk together in the truth of saving grace through Jesus Christ.

A Time to Disarm

“So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?”” (John 18:11 NASB)

A man, born blind, suffered that stigma for many years before meeting Jesus. Upon seeing the man, the disciples asked, “Was it the sin of this man or his parents that he was born blind?” Jesus corrected a false understanding that all who are sick are there because of some sin committed, saying, “It was neither.” Then He stated the true purpose, “It is so that God May be glorified in the Son.” (John 9:1-12)

Lazarus was allowed to die that he might be resurrected to the glory of God (John 11). Jesus warned the disciples that they would be dragged into court on account of Him, but not to worry, for it was opportunity for their testimony to the glory of God. (Luke 21:12-19; Acts 5:33-42)

Jesus walked through life with clear understanding of His purpose in life. He knew when He could fearlessly walk out of a bad situation because it was not yet His time, and He knew when to willingly walk into it, knowing the suffering would work the glory and fulfill the purpose of the Father.

Even today, for us, there are times and situations we are not to fight against. Times come when God’s Spirit inspires us to know this hardship is for God’s glory and purpose. Nothing we can do will get us out of it, because God is planning to take us through it.

Not only might Father take us through a thing rather than deliver us from it, but He may not reveal where we are going beyond the next step. Even if God reveals the end product to us, we must take care to not pick up the gauntlet and run our own path, trying to get there. We will waste precious time and energy, and may well rob the Father of His full glory.

We must note something here. Before Jesus told Peter to stop fighting, that He must drink the cup God has for Him to drink, Jesus spent at least an hour crying out for the Father to remove it, if possible. Then, assured He must drink, God strengthened Him to walk through all He faced. It is not sin to seek deliverance, but it is vital that we willingly receive His strengthening to walk through and drink our God given cup.

Take a new look at your situation, Beloved, and ask the Father if you need to put down your proverbial sword and walk bravely into this opportunity to see His glory. Watch the steps He leads you to, and get ready for a harvest.

Link to all Scriptures referenced

They Know Not What They Do

“These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me.” (John 16:3 NASB)

Do you ever wonder what’s going on in a world gone crazy, amazed at how people are behaving? Jesus reminds that such things are done by those who do not truly know the Father or His Son.

Why are we so shocked to see people of a lost world acting worldly? Scripture teaches that evil in the world will continue to increase, being at its worst as we draw near to the Day of Christ’s return. Things are crazy and people out of control because we draw ever nearer to that day. The enemy of God gains ever-increasing control as people refuse God, and as hearts grow cold and unable to truly love.

What should we do?

– Keep our lamps lit through the continual filling of God’s Spirit and stand ready.

– Draw ever closer to God.

– Be ready to bear witness of His grace and to speak wisdom, truth, righteousness, love, and peace wherever we can.

– Don’t waste breath on those who will not hear, nor cast the pearls of God’s Word before swine.

– Keep your heart from hate and your steps from foolishness.

– Remember that bad company corrupts good morals.

– Live the Light of God in all you do.

– And remember the true battle, while involving humans possessed and deceived, is a spiritual one against an evil enemy army. (Ephesians 6:12 NASB)

– Keep your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith.

That Great Day is dawning, Beloved. Stand ready!

LIVE!

“… “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. IN THAT DAY YOU WILL KNOW that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. ….” (John 14:16-31 NASB)

One reason for the resurrection of Jesus and His 40 days of visitations was to assure the disciples that He was still with them and in them through the power and provision of His Spirit. Still today, we are each, individually one with Father and Son by the power of the indwelling Spirit of Triune God. And in our fully living that out, we are one with each other, the prayer of the Christ fulfilled (John 17). We have the mind of Christ and the heart of the Father within us because of this miraculous union.

I have long believed this truth, yet never as I do now. Father has spent the last few years calling me to deeper, more intimate understanding of this reality: that “I”, ““I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer “I”, I who live, but Christ lives in me (also); and the life which “I”, I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved “ME” and gave Himself up for “ME”.” (Galatians 2:20 NASB)

The hour Jesus cried out for the cup of His suffering to be removed, I believe one thing heaviest on His heart was the understanding that, in the instant all our sin was piled on His Shoulders, He would, for the first time ever, know life without the Father’s Presence. He took all our sin with the destitute abandonment of a God who cannot abide evil, so we, NOW, can enter into our eternal unity in the Spirit.

No temptation can overtake the one who abides in The Triune, Who abides in us. Holding our Abode as of most vital importance and greatest treasure is our way of escape from sins grip. Though we may slip or stumble and need our feet washed, we will not go down for the count and fall away from victory in Christ.

So enter into the Beloved, sweet friend, then go forth and conquer with every breath of your days in Christ. Nothing can steal that joy from us, the joy of unity with the Eternal, when we live and breathe it in our now-day.

ABIDE!

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Old Church Choir

Zach Williams

http://youtu.be/-cRh8NqmXoE